Education? What’s all the hassle for!
This is sort of a follow up to a previous post that where I wrote the following,
As I stated earlier, this isn’t an individual thing. This isn’t me being super sensitive, easily offended. This is an institutional thing. This is a larger problem within society, especially Canadian society, where these experiences serve to maintain these structures and power (including both individual and institutional power).
In this post, I talked about my experiences all through out education. However, I focused entirely on my experiences as an Indigenous student—devoid of any gendered analysis. This post, I hope, will open that discussion to a gendered analysis of my experiences in education.
I will admit. I am a crier. I sometimes cry (like a lot). I cry when I am angry, when I am frustrated, when I am sad… basically anytime I am not happy or laughing—I cry. Okay maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But still, like any human being capable of showing emotion, I cry (and yes, I acknowledge that some people just can’t or don’t cry… that’s okay too—you are a human being too!).
Someone might say, like the quote above, that I am super sensitive and easily offended. Am I super sensitive? Probably not. One doesn’t have to be super sensitive to cry. They also don’t have cry to show their sensitivity. Am I easily offended? Yeahno. It takes a lot to offend me. And by a lot… I literally mean a lot. So why do I cry a lot?
Well, for one, I think it speaks to the fact that I am sometimes in situations where, as a woman, my voice is silenced, ignored or completely dismissed–for whatever fuckin reason someone wants to silence, ignore, or dismiss me. And this happened a lot within my educational experiences. So I tend to cry a lot in these situations where my voice isn’t being heard or when literally what I am saying is being ignored. And it’s not for attention. This silencing, ignoring or dismissing of an individual happens a lot with women especially in institutional settings and if they do not have any significant power or control over their situations—kind of like in educational or professional settings where the majority of them might be seen as subordinate, or you know, at the bottom.
That happened earlier today. I mentioned to someone (a male) that I was frustrated with a particular situation that had nothing to do with my feelings. I asked if something specific could be done. But by the end of the meeting, things started to grow really frustrating.
Without going into too much detail…
At the moment that I started to grow frustrated because well, I wasn’t being listened to, this male took it upon himself to say, “Sorry this is making you uncomfortable.” What. The. Actual. Fuck. At no point in the conversation did I say I was uncomfortable or feeling uncomfortable. I actually expressly stated that I was frustrated at one point and on the point where he brought up me being uncomfortable, I quickly reminded him of this frustration again. Because well, it was… how do I put this? Frustrating.
In her discussion on interlocking systems of oppression, Sherene Razack defines this system as a type of social relation and an approach or analysis that is focused on these social relations. Razack outlines that interlocking systems of oppression in these social relations is an approach to understanding systems of domination, wherein it rejects either/or constructions. Instead, an analysis focused on the interlocking systems of oppression, it forces us to acknowledge these relations and ask questions about institutional arrangements. As an alternative, we are forced to analyze the “central fact that difference is a relation” (p. 135) as opposed to the rights that grants one access to institutions or systems, which is individualized in nature. As Fanon argues, the Black man knows who he is by what he is not: not white. In other words, the Black man begins to know he is different from the white man because he is not white and institutionally, the rights or access he is granted is limited by this difference. Razack further states that this analysis characterizes these relations as “a set of interlocking social arrangements that constitute groups differently, as subordinate and dominant” (p. 136). These dichotomies are embedded within liberal discourse and important to the relation of domination.
Central to the liberal discourse is the idea that “Everyone can make it! If they just try hard enough!” Those who don’t try hard enough? Well, they are just lazy, and (the obvious) they didn’t try hard enough. Hmmm, if that were only the case.
This situation where my issue was reduced to something centered on my feelings as opposed to addressing the actual issue is a reality for many women. Oh you poor little woman who can’t figure things out herself, it must be associated with your feelings! Are you sad? Are you angry? Are you upset? Are you uncomfortable? That’s basically what happened here. Whether he meant it or not isn’t the issue—the issue is that as a male, he had the privilege to instead focus on my womanly feels.
Did this situation make me feel uncomfortable? No, it didn’t make me uncomfortable. It made me frustrated because not only was I not being listened to, but also literally, my issue was reduced to a feeling that I was not experiencing (rather, it was what the male thought I was experiencing–you know men, they can tell how women feel all the time). Who has the privilege in doing that to a female and not be questioned on their own behaviours (or feels)? A male. But what happens when a woman brings up the idea “Oh you know how males can be!”? Can they remain complicit to male privilege? Yes. 100%. In Razack’s article, she refers to the complicity of women in maintaining these systems of domination or interlocking oppressions–they benefit from this too (kind of like Sa’ar’s Liberal bargain). Rather than questioning the institutional arrangements (like gender) that make up these interlocking systems of oppression, we turn our attention to the individual and their behaviours–like calling attention to women’s feelings or expressions.
Razack examines this concept of interlocking systems of oppression in the context of feminist law reform: how can feminist law reform benefit from an analysis which characterizes relations as “a set of interlocking social arrangements that constitute groups differently, as subordinate and dominant”? Education has really been such a pain for me. I always end up asking myself, why put up with all the hassle? For me, this discussion is even more important because I do want to do this law school thing. But I know that this “male privileged” experience will be amped up about 100x in a mainstream JD program. That is the thing that scares me the most. But I guess what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger… this is only the beginning.